Adept Jolan pressed the fabric of his robes flat as he waited patiently by the front door to the winery’s main administrative headquarters. The idyllic scene of rolling hills lined with endless rows of manicured vines set around him was entirely lost on Jolan. A life spent huddled into an Adeptus Administratum cube left the adept with appreciation only for the flawless completion of mandatory paperwork.
The door opened to reveal a bearded middle-aged man in coveralls. “I’m sorry sir we are closed. If you make an inquiry with our reception tomorrow they can schedule an appointment for you.”
Jolan unzipped the satchel strapped to his hip and showed the man his forged credentials. “I am with the Departmento Exacta. Communique had been sent within the past week announcing my arrival.”
“I don’t believe we received any notice,” the man mumbled. “What is this about?”
“Regardless of receipt, notification was sent. I am here to audit the winery’s output for the past three decades. A discrepancy has been noted regarding your annual tithe output.”
“I can assure you master adept, we have met our quotas for the past five generations!”
“If that is the case, sir, then this audit will be nothing more than a minor inconvenience.”
The man sighed and let Jolan into the large open space which doubled as the winery’s storage facility. Stacks of ten-gallon steel drums stretched almost as high as the lofted second floor where Jolan could see another rotund, figure hunched over a desk.
“Wait here for a moment,” the bearded man said before climbing the steel, spiral staircase. He shook the man seated at the desk awake and whispered in his ear.
The seated man quickly looked over his shoulder to examine the auditor while attempting to not appear as though he was. With his advanced augmetic eyes, which if not for the golden irises would be almost indistinguishable from the real thing, Jolan could see the panic in the man’s round face. The seated man sighed audibly and walked to the railing overlooking the storage facility.
“Good afternoon, sir,” he said with a broad smile. “You’ve arrived early! When we received your communique I suspect you wouldn’t be here for another few months.”
The perspiration which dampened his brow let Jolan know the man was lying. Even without this cue, Jolan would have known he was lying because there had not, in fact, been a communique.
“Yes, the Administratum Auditorus takes these matters very seriously,” Jolan replied flatly. “May I begin?”
“Of course, please come up,” the man said. “I’m really surprised you were sent to us. Wine is really more of a luxury item for hive aristocracy and naval officers than the important tithes like ore and grox meat.”
Jolan climbed the stairs methodically searching the building interior for potential hidden doors or weapons. “A tithe is a tithe. It is no one’s place save His Holiness, The Emperor, to determine which is more important to His plan.”
“Of course,” he said. Jolan noted a hint of resentment in the man’s voice. Despite this he pulled out the desk chair for Jolan and gestured for him to take a seat. “Yarsin can you please grab the records for the adept?”
The bearded man set a stack of data-slates and a large, leather bound ledger in front of Jolan. Without another word, he pulled an adapter from under his hood and plugged it into the first data-slate. As the information uploaded into his auxiliary data store, he opened the ledger. Each eye independently processed and recorded the contents on both pages in seconds. He switched the port to the next data-slate as he reached halfway through the ledger.
The second data-slate confirmed deliveries to several of the hives where aristocrats were struck with the mutations. Each house that was affected controlled the production of materiel that contributed to multiple war zones across the Segmentum. The fourth one revealed materials procured from the same sub-sector as Szelar as well as the Eastern Fringe. The ledger was filled with subtle inconsistencies.
Jolan tapped the vox-bead in his ear twice as he returned the port back beneath his hood. He turned to face the two men.
“All done?” the bearded man asked annoyed.
“I said it wouldn’t take long.”
“I hope you found everything to be in order,” the other man asked with an anxious smile.
“Indeed,” Jolan nodded. “Although it’s curious…”
“The T’au aren’t known for dealing with mutagenic technology or substances. Perhaps they wanted to mask their assassinations as the work of the Dark Powers. This is far messier than their typical espionage work, so much collateral damage. That’s not their style.”
The two men’s faces had grown cold and pale. The large man stared at Jolan with a dagger like glare. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said unconvincingly.
“It makes more sense that they had left the task up to their ‘human helpers,’” Jolan continued undeterred. “I suppose you’re not working alone. If you give us the names of your accomplices, we can avoid dragging out the unpleasantness.”
The bearded man gritted his teeth as he grabbed a nearby glass. As he raised it above his head to smash it against Jolan’s, the windows shattered inwards. It was followed by a flash grenade that temporarily blinded all three men.
The Inquisitorial Storm Troopers flooded into the winery headquarters through every window and doorway. Shouts ordering the men to the ground were enforced by rough hands pulling down the two across from Jolan.
Jolan’s augmetics readjusted much faster than ordinary biological eyes and looked at Tempestor Agges in the face as she approached her soldiers restraining the suspects.
“Did the raid on the bottling facility yield any results?” Jolan asked.
“It did,” Agges smiled and held up a waste basket-sized device with sleek, curved lines. “The tech-priest believes it is used to process the forebrain to be mixed into the wine.”
Jolan nodded, “Zaddion will be pleased.”